As the great empire of the Valyrian Freehold was destroyed, its conquered cities and territories had divided off into bloody war and tyranny. The Ghiscari broke away and established a new capital city called New Ghis. The northern slaver cities of Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen became independent. The western part of the east continent was the most chaotic, every city fighting for dominance and independence now that the dragonlords are gone. After a bloody and lengthy military campaign that resulted in the Bleeding Years, the Nine Free Cities came into being and grew rich from business and trade because they no longer had to pay taxes to the Valyrians. #LOL 😀
This chaos and struggle for dominance was ignored by the last remaining dragonlords, the Targaryens. They marshalled their strength on Dragonstone and assessed their options. East lay the scattered provinces of old Valyria, divided and weakened from years of bloodshed. West lay the rich and divided kingdoms of Westeros, displayed in Dragonstone on the Painted Table that Aegon Targaryen commissioned.
The rulers of Westeros at this time were:
- Torrhen Stark, King in the North
- Ronnel Arryn, King of the Vale, a young king whose mother, Sharra Arryn, ruled as Regent
- Harren Hoare, King of the Iron Islands and the Riverlands
- Lorren Lannister, King of the Westerlands
- Mern IX Gardener, King of the Reach
- Argilac Durrendon, King of the Stormlands
- Mariya Martell, Princess of Dorne
Along with his sister-wives Visenya and Rhaenys, Aegon the Conqueror made his decision and prepared their dragons for battle. They sent ravens to each of the rulers in Westeros and informed them that there would only be one King. Those that swore fealty to Aegon would be spared or otherwise destroyed.
In response, Queen Regent Sharra Arryn offered an alliance through marriage to Aegon and another offer of alliance from Princess Mariya of Dorne. Aegon ignored these offers and took his dragons and 3,000 soldiers to the mouth of Blackwater Rush. The nearby castles of Stokeworth and Rosby surrendered without a fight and Duskendale and Maidenpool surrendered after brief battles. Their troops were added to Aegon’s own 3000 men.
He proclaimed himself Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and King of Westeros. He named his bastard-brother Orys Baratheon his Hand of the King and ordered him to lay siege to Storm’s End with the help of Rhaenys and her dragon. He ordered his Targaryen fleet, under command of Daemon Velaryon, Visenya, and her dragon, to go north and capture Gulltown. Aegon marched west.
The Arryn fleet met with the Targaryen fleet, Visenya and her dragon burning the fleet. However, the Targaryen forces were defeated and Daemon Velaryon was killed in battle. Orys Baratheon suffered losses on his march to Storm’s End but was able to succeed in the campaign. Aegon and Balerion burned Harren’s longships before they reached Harrenhal.
Lord Edmyn Tully, inspired by Aegon’s success, rebelled against the ironborn where he was joined by the Brackens, Mallisters, Blackwoods, and Freys. They joined forces with Aegon and they attempted to attack Harrenhal. However, Harren the Black was unmoved by this alliance and chose to hide behind his walls, believing they would keep out even Balerion the Black Dread. Aegon commanded him to surrender, otherwise his line would end at sunset.
When Harren refused, Aegon led Balerion the Black Dread high over the walls and burned the towers of Harrenhal until they melted. Harren and his entire House burned in the fire, as Aegon predicted. #dontmesswithdragons 😀
Argilac the Arrogant led his army from Storm’s End and faced Orys’ forces in what was later known as the Battle of the Last Storm. Though Orys was outnumbered, Rhaenys and her dragon Meraxes gave a distinct advantage to the Targaryen fleet. Argillac was slain in battle but his daughter, Argella, proclaimed herself the Storm Queen and barred the gates of Storm’s End. However, she was betrayed by her own followers and was handed over to Orys, naked and in chains. Orys treated her with courtesy and he was named Lord of the Stormlands, as proclaimed by Aegon, and given Argella’s hand in marriage. Thus, House Baratheon was founded.
Word of the Targaryen success spread across the Reach and the Westerlands, igniting the alliance of King Lorren of the Rock and King Mern of Highgarden. With 55,000 men they marched north to meet Aegon’s forces of 10,000.
The vastness of the enemy force prompted Aegon to ride with Rhaenys and Visenya and their dragons. The dragons burned through the forces and killed more than 5,000 men along with King Mern and his sons. His vassal, Harlen Tyrell, and King Lorren surrendered to the Targaryens and were proclaimed as rulers of the Westerlands and the Reach, respectively.
While preparing to invade Dorne, Aegon received word that King Torrhen Stark was marching south with 30,000 men. Aegon led his 45,000 troops and met them at the Trident. King Torrhen had initially anticipated a stealth attack to kill the Targaryen dragons. But after seeing the vast army, he negotiated a surrender and swore fealty to Aegon the Conqueror. Torrhen Stark, whom history marks as the King Who Knelt, was proclaimed Warden of the North and Lord of Winterfell.
Meanwhile, Queen Regent Sharra Arryn decided to ignore Aegon’s successes and assembled her army at the Bloody Gate. Trying a different approach, Aegon sent Visenya and her dragon to the Eyrie. When Sharra rushed out to the courtyard to find her young son playing with Visenya, she agreed to swear loyalty to the Targaryens as long as her son could ride the dragon. Thus, the Vale and its army came into Aegon’s control.
Rhaenys tried to invade Dorne and establish holdfasts but she failed. The people refused to meet them on the battlefield and instead hid away on mountains and deserts, launching guerilla attacks on the army. Frustrated, Rhaenys tried a different tact and flew to Sunspear to demand fealty from Princess Mariya. The Princess merely replied, “This is Dorne. You are unwanted here, return at your own peril.” Rhaenys countered that she would return with “Fire and blood”, but Mariya simply uttered their words, “Unbent, unbowed, unbroken”. The Targaryen army left Dorne untaken.
Leading his forces to Oldtown, The High Septon eventually recognised Aegon as the rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms. But instead of taking Oldtown as capital, he declared King’s Landing as the new capital of Westeros and commissioned the construction of a massive city and a fortified castle on Aegon’s Hill.
He took all the swords of the lords he defeated in battle and those who surrendered and melted them with Balerion’s breath to form his Iron Throne.
Watch out for the next post of this series, a brief recount of the Targaryen dragon kings that succeeded Aegon the Conqueror. 😀